Disclaimer: I do not own anything Harry Potter related. It all belongs to JK Rowling, Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Inc., Warner Bros., and any other entities involved.
A/N: Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read and review this story, I do appreciate it. Please do contact me or leave a review if you have any questions/comments/criticisms. This is currently the unedited version of the chapter.
I've had some questions asked about the story, but have not been able to reply with answers, so unfortunately I need to post them below. Please do feel free to skip this bit and go straight to the story.
To Alex – I get where you're coming from, really, I do. And this is about Harry and Fawkes' fight against Voldemort. It's just moving slowly. You should see more evidence of this as a Harry/Fawkes centric story later in this chapter. Do let me know if you have any more questions/comments in the future.
To Rokkis – I know what you mean about my writing style. When I started this story, I was reading 'Persuasion' and 'Pride and Prejudice. I was strongly influenced by the way Jane Austen writes, and though I wouldn't dream of trying to match her, I have been subconsciously trying emulate her method. In addition to this, I am awful at writing action, try as I might, so I tend to steer clear of it.
Chapter Seven: Petrosus Via (A Rocky Road)
"It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that things are difficult."
Time passed, as was its habit. Harry and Neville settled into a routine. Neville would attend to his studies with his Gran during the day and with Harry at night. The child had found it a novelty when, during his usual lesson on History of Magic with his Gran, where she was quizzing him on their previous week's lessons, he got every question right, with no prompting.
His Gran had been delighted and praised him for taking such care in his reading. What she did not know was he had been hearing most of the stories in those books from Harry, who in turn had seen much of it first hand, during his travels as a phoenix. Hearing it in that way gave the stories new life – life that even the best History teacher in the world cannot hope to recreate.
For his part, Harry divided his time mainly between Longbottom Hall and St Mungo's. Frank and Alice made great strides following their first meeting, and were able to maintain lucidity for ever increasing periods of time. It gave Harry hope that they would one day make a full recovery, though, he was worried that if he wasn't able to find the right therapist for them, all the work they had done together would be for naught.
He wasn't altogether sure how to proceed on this issue, either. It wasn't like he was able to research and interview possible healers himself. Aside from the identity problem, (though of course he knew he could use a glamour if he had to), he had no idea where to start. Who could he approach? Who could he trust with this, really?
The answer came by chance, as these things sometimes do, when a friend of Augusta's who had come to tea filled her in on the latest research from America. Apparently, squibs were not shunned in the same way there as they were in Britain. In fact, one of the founding families of Wizarding America sponsored several non-magical children who were born to magical parents, so that they could get an education in the non-magical world. One of them had gone to university and studied psychology. He had returned to his parents and told them of his work, and they in turn had got him in contact with one of America's up and coming mind healers.
The two of them had exchanged ideas, and set up a practice where they not only treated patients, but also did research into combining magical and non-magical techniques. They assessed each patient in turn, and tailored the therapy to the individual. Reports of their work were in the latest medical journals, one of which Augusta's friend had seen, hence the reason she was telling her about it.
Unfortunately, Augusta was sceptical. In the years since the attack on her family, she had been drawn into so-called 'miracle cures', which promised a lot and delivered little. She had been let down too many times, had her hopes built up, only to have them shattered. She did not really want to risk the potential heartache for her and Neville again.
Harry had to do some quick thinking when he heard all this. He knew, without being sure why, that this was where Neville's parents had to go, if they were to have any chance of getting better. But how to persuade his Gran?
He flew over to her and landed on her shoulder, just as she was looking at the documents her friend had left with her. As she looked at them and sighed, he began to sing. He wasn't singing anything specific, he just tried to communicate, through his song, that there was hope. That what she held in her hands, signified that there was a chance that it might work.
She had been on the verge of dismissing the research, since she had no reason to believe, not after all this time. But when Neville's phoenix perched on her shoulder and started singing, Augusta changed her mind. She had long wished to remove Frank and his wife from England, thinking that they were at risk while they stayed here.
She turned her head and looked into the dark eyes of the bird that was still singing to her. Something… yes, something told her to take this chance. That way, even if they didn't get any better she would at least have removed them from Britain.
With this decided, Augusta went to her desk to compose a letter to the clinic in America, and also to St Mungo's.
Satisfied with this result, Harry had flashed away, a smile on his face.
Frank and Alice had been moved to the clinic in America six months before, and today was the 30th July, 1991 – Neville's eleventh birthday.
Come September, Neville would be attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Despite her misgivings on the conduct of Albus Dumbledore, and the fact that the children of many known Death Eaters would be attending with him, Augusta could not force herself to break with hundreds of years of Longbottom tradition and send her grandson to another school or keep him at home.
Given that he would soon be away at boarding school, Augusta believed that it was time Neville met some of his peers. To that end, she had invited the children of some notable neutral families. At this time, she really did not want to put herself and her Grandson on any perceivable 'side', politically, or otherwise. The only long standing alliance of the family was with the Potters. And since the last scion of the Potter family died nearly ten years ago, the Longbottoms could approach things a little cautiously, for now.
The guest list for Neville's birthday thus included Ernest Macmillan and his mother, (his father being away on business as usual), Anthony Goldstein and his parents, Morag MacDougal and her parents, Mandy Brocklehurst and her mother and finally, Blaise Zabini and his mother. It would be a small party, but a civilised one. Augusta could think of nothing better for her grandson at this time.
She was unsure what house he would be sorted into at Hogwarts. At one time, she might have hoped for Gryffindor, but now, she was not so certain. Truly, her Neville was brave when he chose to be, and he was a phoenix companion. But he was also very attentive to his books and his studies. Perhaps Ravenclaw would suit him better? And truly, Longbottoms had been in Ravenclaw before, there would be no dishonour if he were to end up there.
As such, she had put no pressure on him, as she might have done before. All she had said was that whichever house he ended up in would be fine. She thought it extremely unlikely he would end up in Slytherin, since he did not have a cunning bone in his body, so she was not worried on that score. Truly it was a mystery, but she was happy to wait for his first letter home to find out the solution.
She was roused from her ruminations by the sound of the Floo. She stood and straightened her robes; it was time for her to greet their guests.
The Dowager Lady Longbottom was not to know it, but just as she had been thinking of the Potters, Albus Dumbledore, the man she was so wary of, was sitting in his office, thinking about another little boy who should have been attending Hogwarts this autumn.
Presumed dead these ten long years – presumed, since his body was never found. There were no remains whatsoever. It was a puzzle, and though Albus liked solving puzzles, he did not like the ones which defied his reasoning. And this was a conundrum which stubbornly refused to be solved.
Albus sighed as he thought about that night.
What in the Nine Hells had even happened that night? What kind of magic had been used, which reduced both Harry Potter and Voldemort to nothing? No trace, no bodies, nothing!
He sighed, already fed up with this chain of thought. He had sat in this office and gone over it so many times, to the point where his thoughts became jumbled and incoherent. It wearied him. The loss of those lives, of the Potters, was so senseless. And try as he might, his conscience would not let him forget, or kid himself about the very real part he had to play in bringing about those deaths. It was depressing, but he could not hide from the facts.
A sudden thought occurred to him, as going over those times. There was another family he'd tried to protect, and one might say, failed. The Longbottoms. However, the difference there was that young Neville survived and he would be coming to Hogwarts this September, unlike Harry.
Thinking of the two boys made him think of the Prophecy spoken to him by Sybil Trelawney. Was it a true prophecy? If so, had it already been fulfilled, the night the Potters died? He couldn't be sure, and therein lay the problem. With that in mind, getting to know young Neville, who had been hidden from view by his overprotective grandmother all these years and who would soon be in his 'purview', so to speak, could only be considered as advantageous. Yes, he would take the boy under his wing, become his mentor.
Satisfied that he now had a plan, with clear goals to aim for, Albus fetched another lemon drop from his tin.
Fawkes watched Albus somewhat forlornly as he sat at his desk in his office, and he knew exactly what his long-time companion was thinking. He didn't even need to read his mind, it was written all over his face. As one who believed himself to be a consummate politician, Albus would be horrified to hear that anyone could read his body language and expressions so well. But really, Fawkes, who had known him so long, was probably the only one who could.
And what he saw worried him greatly. His motives were becoming less clear, the workings of his mind had turned somewhat... murky. Unfortunately, he had been unprepared for the aftermath of his defeat of Grindlewald. Albus had been a teacher who had simply done the right thing in a bad situation. He was ill equipped to deal with the accolades and the fame without it going to his head. He had suddenly believed he could do anything, be anything and that he could do no wrong.
Over the years, Fawkes had been able to bring him back from the worst of ideas that his ego put forth, but his influence was waning and he was not sure what he could do about that. Some might say that he should have abandoned Albus at the first sign that the man was deviating from the light.
But Fawkes had never been a quitter, and he would also not abandon his friends when they needed him. And Albus did need him. The man had spent so much time manoeuvring in the political quagmire of the Wizengamot and the International Confederation of Wizards, that all the cloak and dagger stuff was becoming a way of life with him.
He had withdrawn from everyday life, and now spent his time collecting information, formulating plans and only viewing people as tools, looking at them and assessing how they can be best deployed to further his aims. And his aims did have the best of intentions, truly, they did. But he had spent so much time akin to a spider in the centre of his web, that Albus had lost sight of just who and what it was he was fighting for.
It was his observations of Albus over the years and what he guessed his behaviour might lead to which had prompted Fawkes to take matters into his own hands. He and his son had already discussed the fact that they might need to work separately from Albus and his Order of the Phoenix many times.
With this in mind, they had gone on a fact-finding mission, to see what had really taken place on the night Harry's parents died. He had originally intended to go on his own, but Harry had insisted on coming along. He claimed that he had to see the truth of that night with his own eyes, and though Fawkes did not think anything good could come of such a thing, he was not going to order his son around and tell him he couldn't go. After all, a parent could not protect their child from everything forever, as much as they might wish they could.
Sitting on his perch in Albus office, watching him writing on some parchment and wondering what he was writing, Fawkes remembered all they had discovered on that night.
The ruins of the Potter Cottage, October 10th 1989
Fawkes and Harry alighted onto the branch of an old tree which was situated close to the window of what had been Harry's nursery at one time. They both paused and surveyed what was left of what had been a happy home. Well, relatively happy, since the threat of attack had hung over the occupants of the house like a shroud. Though their protections had been impressive, they had still worried, and justifiably so, after all.
After a moment's contemplation, the two phoenixes flew through the cracked and dirty window and perched on the battered, old crib which was still there. They were surprised that eight years on, this crib was still here, and resolved to find out why at a later date. It was possible that some of the original wards were still in place and kept visitors away from the ruins. Alternatively, perhaps everyone believed that the place had already been emptied and so it did not occur to them to check for themselves? It was the smallest of the mysteries which they had come here to solve, so for the moment, they put it to the back of their minds.
Both spent some minutes going over the room, trying to find some residue of the magic which had been worked in the room, eight years ago. But while they could sense that something significant had happened, they could find nothing concrete.
A brief survey of the rest of the house confirmed this, so with heavy hearts, they flamed away, reappearing eight years in the past.
The still smoking ruins of the Potter Cottage, October 31st 1981
Harry and Fawkes appeared in nearly the exact same spot, approximately one hour after the attack by Voldemort. They did not want to be seen by Sirius or Hagrid, so they had not dare to come any earlier. Also, Fawkes did not want to present Harry with a situation where he would be tempted to intervene, and save his parents. Oh, he knew that Harry could always travel to that time on his own, and Fawkes would have no way of stopping him. Still, he did not want to throw such temptation in his son's face by appearing right at that moment.
Both phoenixes could feel the difference in the room as soon as they appeared.
They could feel the wrongness of the magic worked here. Fawkes flew over to a smudge on the floor where he guessed Voldemort had been standing. It took a few moments, but he could sense what had happened. He could see where the magic had been and what its intent was.
The scene in this nursery an hour ago had been almost exactly as had been recorded by historians. Lily Potter had stood in front of her son's crib, ready to protect him, ultimately giving up her life to do so. Voldemort had stood in this spot and shot a killing curse at Lily. He had then done the same to Harry Potter. Lily's willing sacrifice had reflected the curse back to Voldemort, but not before it had triggered his son's first Burning Day. When the reflected curse hit Voldemort... then what? What had happened then? It might have killed him, but if it did, where was the body? He called Harry over to have a look too, since his son's participation in this event might make him sense the magic more keenly.
Harry spent some time sadly going over the details the way his sire had done, silently offering a prayer of thanks to Lily for what she had given up for him. Then he stopped thinking and just let himself feel. He immersed himself in the sensations of the magic around him – not an easy thing to do, since the wrongnessof it all jarred violently with the core of his being.
It was a flash of light out of the corner of his eye, and for a moment, Harry almost believed he had imagined it. The more he tried to focus on the strange phenomenon, the more indistinct it grew. Until – there! He saw it! Voldemort's corporeal form had been destroyed, but his spirit had fled – leaving a barely discernable trail in its wake.
"There, father, do you see it? Voldemort's spirit has left a trail, we can follow it and –"
"I really do not think that would be a good idea at this time, son," Fawkes interrupted Harry, who paused for a moment, before ruefully agreeing.
"Can you see it though?" he asked, sending an image of the trail as he saw it to his sire's mind.
"Ah, yes, now I do. But wait, what is this? It's faint, very faint, but do you see there, where it branches off? It is something akin to a fine thread of silk, but definitely attached. What can it be, I wonder?" Fawkes thought for a moment, weighing and measuring the possibilities in his mind. He had an awful feeling he knew what it might be.
'Could it lead to an anchor? An anchor for do the Dark One's soul? It would explain why he did not die...' He thought to himself.
Such things were horrible to contemplate, but he had heard of them before from other phoenixes who had encountered them across the ages. If it was so, then he and his son had a heavy task ahead of them. They were going to need some help.
"Harry, how would you like to visit with Salazar and the others?"